What does the Theory of Degrowth Have to do with the Working Day?

Degrowth theory has become popular in recent years, and we are already beginning to see results from its practice. A clear example is in the working day.

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LatinAmerican Post | July Vanesa López Romero

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Leer en español: ¿Qué tiene que ver la teoría del decrecimiento y la jornada laboral?

In a very theoretical sense, the economy currently dominates our world is that of liberal capitalism, which is based on constant growth; in other words, it is an economy focused on increasing goods and services. The problem with this postulate is that it believes that resources are infinite, resulting in social and environmental consequences. Faced with this problem, the theory of economic decline has resurfaced and has become popular as an excellent option to deal with the climate crisis.

What is the Theory of Degrowth?

The degrowth theory is a response to uncontrolled economic growth based on decreasing goods and services from a sustainable economy that considers the preservation of natural resources. This is proposed as a regulated and controlled decrease with social and environmental well-being results.

In addition, this theory goes against what is known as sustainable development. It ensures that sustainability is impossible if it is proposed that all countries reach levels of consumption as high as developed. Thus, it is only a question of increasing once getting the same level and running out of resources, but of decreasing to reach the same level and make more acceptable and conscious use of the resources, we have left.

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Degrowth detractors say that economic growth, especially the one that occurred after World War II, is what made the world more affluent, and employment and education will be generated. And it is that if there is something clear, it is that this is the wealthiest moment in the history of humanity, something paradoxical considering that most people in the world are poor. Likewise, the degrowth postulates are partly problematic because, with COVID-19, it was shown that the decline in production and consumption in developed and rich countries has substantial consequences in poor and developing countries.

Although the theory of degrowth has its origins in the criticism of industrialization by thinkers such as Henri David Thoreau and Lev Tolstoy in the 19th century, it was not until the 1970s that the concept was born at the hands of Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, an economist and mathematician considered the father of this theory. Georgescu-Roegen starts from the bioeconomy to ensure that the capitalist model does not consider the degradation of energy and matter and that the excessive use of resources will push the planet to its limits. Since then, several experts have helped expand this theory, but it only had a little strength to be more than a postulate until a few years ago.

With the growing awareness of climate change, the degrowth theory has also gained popularity. Today, in the face of the climate and social justice crises we are experiencing, it has relevance not only in the scientific community but also in the political agenda of some countries. The reason why some governments of the world have adopted it for pilot tests.

The First Success of the Theory of Degrowth

Some European countries have paid particular attention to degrowth theory, and its first significant breakthrough recently occurred in the UK. At the end of February, the results of a study by the University of Cambridge and Boston College were published, in which 61 companies participated, committing to reduce their working hours by 20% without reducing wages for a trial period. of 6 months.

The results showed that resignations and sick leave were reduced by 57% and 65%, respectively, and company income increased by 1.4%. Likewise, 71% of the workers claimed to be less exhausted than when they started the test, and 39% claimed to be less stressed. In addition, 92% of the companies that participated in the pilot showed interest in continuing with the 4-day work week model, with 18 of the 61 even making a permanent change in company policies. This pilot test is the tip of the spear of degrowth theory, which ensures that lowering production levels impacts social and environmental well-being without necessarily reducing income and economic well-being.

What Benefits Would it Bring to Your Life?

To lower production levels, the degrowth theory could bring more free time. As we have already seen, in the case of England, the working day was reduced from 5 to 4 days. This model promises to become even more popular and could reach Latin American countries very soon. The region is experiencing a period of left-wing governments that have paid particular attention to the environment and sustainability. In that order of ideas, your mental health could improve by reducing exhaustion and stress typical of work overload. Physical health would also be affected since the chances of suffering from respiratory diseases or diseases associated with climate change would decrease thanks to the drop in carbonization levels.

On the other hand, one of the bases of this theory argues that with economic growth, those who benefit most are the rich, who become more prosperous, while the middle and lower classes must see their income fall short for a life that each time gets more expensive. The equation is simple, static wages compared to rising productivity and growth lines. With this model, which can be adopted by governments that do not necessarily respond to left-wing ideals, the burden and benefits can become more balanced.

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